“See?” she asked.
He blinked away the daze she’d put him in and realized she was showing him a pic of the front room in her store. And just as she’d said, there in front of a holly-strewn fake mantel lay a huge pit bull and a teeny-tiny teacup . . . piglet. Entwined.
Between them was a familiar-looking white ball of fluff with the black face of his nightmares. And that nightmare’s face was pressed trustingly to the pit bull’s. For a long beat Keane just stared at it. “Photoshop, right?” he finally asked. “Just to fuck with me?”
She laughed, and he found himself smiling at just the sound. But soon as he did, her amusement faded, almost as if she’d just reminded herself that she didn’t like him. Standing, she turned away. “Well, finally.”
“Archer and Spence are here.”
“No, two of my best friends.”
“I met your best friends,” he said. “They were the ones who watched our conversation this morning like we were a Netflix marathon, right?”
“I have a whole gang of BFFs,” she said. “Archer and Spence are on wedding security detail tonight.” The cell phone on her hip rang. She looked at the screen and swore.
“The antichrist committed murder, didn’t she,” he guessed.
“No, of course not! I’ve got a cake emergency.”
“Well I can’t compete with that. Go ahead,” he said. “I’ll build the dog archway.”
She hesitated. “It has to be perfect.”
Keane had built houses from the ground up and she was questioning his ability to put together an archway. For dogs. “Cake emergency,” he reminded her.
“Shit. Okay . . .” She looked at him very seriously. “Do you need any help?”
He stuck his tongue in his cheek. “I’m pretty sure I can handle it.”
Looking torn, she blew out a sigh. “Okay, if you’re sure. And . . . thanks.”
He merely waved Ms. Doubtful One off, though he wasn’t above watching her rush away. Yeah, his gaze locked on her sweet ass in those snug skinny jeans tucked into some seriously kickass boots. He was still watching, neck craned to catch the last of her as he turned back to his work and . . . nearly plowed into two guys standing there shoulder to shoulder staring at him. The two who Willa had pointed out as Archer and Spence.
“So . . . you guys here for the bride or the groom?” Keane asked.
No one blinked.
“It’s a joke,” Keane said. “Because the groom and the bride are dogs. See, it’s funny.”
“Tough crowd,” he muttered.
“We’re here for Willa,” one of them said. The bigger, more ’tude-ridden one, who looked like he’d seen the darker side of the world and maybe still lived there. The other guy was leaner but just as fit, his eyes assessing Keane with careful interest.
“Hey.” This was Willa herself, yelling from the other side of the courtyard’s fountain. “Play nice!” She pointed at her two friends. “Especially you two.”
Spence and Archer busted out sweet-looking smiles for her and added cheerful waves. Then the minute she turned away, they went back to deadpan staring at Keane.
“Okay, great talk,” he said. “I’m going to build this dog gazebo now. You can either stand there or give me a hand.”
The bigger guy spoke. “The last guy she went out with played games with her head.” His tone was quiet, his gaze direct and steady.
The other guy, clearly the more easygoing of the two, nodded. “They never did find the body, did they?”
The other guy slowly shook his head.
Okay then. “Good to know,” Keane said lightly but suddenly he was feeling anything but light. He didn’t like the thought of anyone screwing with Willa. Still fixated on that, he turned his back on her bodyguards and got to work. When he straightened to hoist the arch, suddenly there were four extra hands—both guys lending their strength to the cause.
Still not talking.
After that they were apparently a threesome and recruited as such to be the official setting-up-chairs committee. One hundred and fifty chairs to be exact.
For a dog wedding.
The three of them were hot and sweaty in no time even with the cold December air brushing over them.
“At least it’s easier than that time she made us help her do that South Beach wedding, remember, Arch?” the leaner guy asked, giving Keane his first clue on which was Archer and which was Spence.
Archer just grunted as he lined up the last row, his gaze drifting to the edge of the courtyard where Elle stood in a siren red dress working both a cell phone and an iPad.
Spence followed his friend’s gaze. “How is it she never gets dirty or sweaty?”
Archer shook his head. “Dirt and sweat don’t stick to Elle; she isn’t human.”
Spence laughed. “So she’s still mad at you then.”
“She’s always mad at me.”
“You ever figure out why?”
Archer didn’t answer.
Willa came up with three bottles of water. “Chilly night,” she said.
Keane, who’d been still getting the occasional frosty looks from Spence and Archer, snorted.
Willa took this in and then looked at them each in turn. “What’s going on?”
No one said a word.
She reached up and grabbed Spence by the ear. He manfully winced instead of yelped. “What the hell, Wills.”
“What’s the weird vibe? What’s going on?”
Spence carefully pried her fingers from his ear. “Why didn’t you twist off Archer’s ear?”
“Because Archer’s probably wearing two guns and a knife,” she said.
Keane glanced over at the guy. Archer’s body language hadn’t changed. He was deceptively casual, his gaze hard and alert. Military or law enforcement, he figured.
Willa went hands on hips.
Archer didn’t cave, but Spence did. “We were just making sure this one passed muster after Ethan—” He broke off at the look on Willa’s face.
Keane had two older sisters. They’d mostly ignored him unless he’d put himself in the line of fire. During those times, their gazes had shot out promised retribution that might or might not include maiming and torturing. Death was a given.